The plant is a tropical rain forest plant, but it doesn’t need water all the time, and grows fine in full sunlight. The temperature, though, must remain above 68 F (20°C.) Above ground, the plant can grow 5 feet (1.5 metres) tall or more. It has huge green leaves, about 2 feet (60 cm) long and the same wide. When the foliage above ground starts to dry out and die back, it is a sign that it’s time to harvest the tubers.
The oval-shaped tuber is about the size of a potato, though the variety called Cocoa Malanga is about the size of a coconut. A Malanga’s weight averages ½ to 2 pounds (225 to 900g.) The skin is lumpy and hairy with white and brown stripes. Inside, before cooking, the flesh is crisp, ranging in colour from cream to pinkish.
There are in general two main types of Malanga: Malanga amarillo (Colocasia esculenta) which grows in damp, soggy ground, and Malanga blanca (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), which grows on normal land.
Malanga is used in Central America and Caribbean cooking. Many people confuse it with Taro, which is a close relative.
When buying Malanga, choose firm, crack-free ones.
Malanga can be peeled, boiled and eaten like potatoes, even mashed with milk and butter. Deep fried, it makes very good chips. If boiled in soups, it will help thicken the broth.
Reasonable source of riboflavin and thiamine.
Do not store in refrigerator or below 45 F (7 C). Use within 7 days.
The Carib Indians called it “taia” (hence the name for it today in the Dominican Republic, Tannia), and would cook the young leaves like spinach.